California’s largest utility has intentionally cut power to roughly 500,000 customers in Northern California – a number that’s scheduled to rise later Wednesday in what could be a dayslong outage – as the company tries to prevent wildfires during extremely windy and dry conditions.

Pacific Gas & Electric started the shutoff early Wednesday, leaving parts of 22 counties – including northern portions of the San Francisco Bay Area – in the dark.

As many as 300,000 additional customers are expected to lose power later in the day – including in Alameda and Santa Clara counties, which contain the Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose areas – for a total of 800,000 homes, businesses and other buildings affected, the company said.

“We implement this public safety power shutoff as a last resort,” Sumeet Singh, vice president of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program, said Tuesday, citing forecasters’ warnings that parts of Northern California are under extreme danger of fire because of high winds.

Several school districts and a major university have canceled classes. And officials in cities such as San Jose are urging people reliant on medical devices to get them charged at certain community centers that will remain powered.

Some residents facing life without electricity are checking into hotels outside the outage area, CNN affiliate KGO reported.

“Most people don’t realize what an outage really means,” one of those hotel guests, Marilyn Varnado of eastern Oakland, told KGO. “Stop lights are not going to be working. There’s going to be a lot of crazy things going on, and I just think there’s going to be some tragedies because of that.”

Once the winds die down, it could take several days to restore power, Singh said, as the company will first conduct safety inspections.

The deliberate outages come after PG&E signaled this year it would cut power more aggressively than in the past, in hopes of preventing wildfires caused by high winds downing live power equipment.

PG&E had come under criticism in recent years for the role of its equipment in a series of catastrophic wildfires across the state, including the deadly 2018 Camp Fire. The utility has agreed to pay billions of dollars in damages.

Who will be impacted

The early-morning shutoff will be followed by a second stage, around noon PT Wednesday, that will cut power to about 234,000 customers in Alameda and Santa Clara counties and elsewhere, PG&E said.

A third stage, which would affect another 42,000 customers further south, is being …read more

Source:: Daily Times

      

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PG&E has begun cutting power across parts of Northern California

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